Hill's Programs and Institutes

programs and institutes
St. Joseph Hill Academy High School is always investing in the future of our students. Hill's mission to educate and empower young women to become independent thinkers ready to face society's challenges led us to introduce the AP Capstone Program in the 2022-2023 school year. 
The AP Capstone Program is in its second year and provides EVERY Hill student with the opportunity to take an AP course for college credit. All sophomores have the opportunity to obtain AP credits through the first part of the AP Capstone Program: AP Seminar. This is an interdisciplinary program that encourages students to demonstrate critical thinking, collaboration and academic research skills on the topics of their choosing. Students will then have the opportunity to enroll in AP Research in junior year, which will provide them with the chance to earn an AP Capstone Certificate or an AP Capstone Diploma. 
The reality of this Program is that it equips students with essential skills that will shape them for the rest of their lives: skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaborating, writing, and public speaking. It can also greatly help students with the skills they need to stand out to colleges. 
Catch a glimpse of how the AP Capstone Program was started through this short video featuring our esteemed faculty member, Ms. Kristin Sherwood, and Hilltopper, Sabrina Velovic '24, shot in our beautifully renovated Sr. Ernestine Jeck, FDC High School Library and Learning Commons by alumna Athina Sonitis '19.
Every student at Hill takes Fine Art & Music courses. If the arts is your passion, we have so much to offer. Students have opportunities to take Fine Art courses where they are applying, recognizing, identifying and describing the elements of art and the principles of design. They will cultivate and develop their own artistic styles and interests through drawing, painting and sculpture. Individualized attention is also placed on developing portfolios for college admission.
Hill offers AP 2-D Art and Design where students use the elements and principles of design on a two-dimensional surface. They also submit a portfolio of artwork for evaluation by the College Board.
  • Fine Art I
  • Fine Art II
  • AP 2D Art and Design
  • Music
Student life includes:
In the Summer of 2022, Hill held an Art Workshop led by Mrs. MaryEllen Laureno that focused on watercolor and acrylic painting, Picasso-inspired soft sculptures, learning a block printmaking method as well as Gyotaku, a traditional 19th century Japanese form of art. 
Students have access to our state-of-the art Fine Art Studio in Madonna Hall.
Hill's STEM Pathway immerses students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, while emphasizing critical thinking and ingenuity. Beginning freshman year, students will engage in 3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD), introductory computer programming, and robotics. The STEM Pathway emphasizes real-world collaborative problem-solving skills through project-based learning. This forms the foundation for selecting higher-level coursework.
The STEM Pathway may be supplemented with a 2-year sequence in fine arts and/or music appreciation and balanced with a range of Humanities Pathway electives.
Freshman Year
Sophomore Year
College Digital Electronics* or AP Computer Science Principles*
Junior Year
College Introduction to Engineering Design* or College Environmental Sustainability*
*Available for college credit
College Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is now offered as a part of Hill's STEM Pathway Program. A Project Lead the Way Computer Science course, Cybersecurity helps students establish an ethical code of conduct, while learning to defend data in today’s complex cyberworld.
Student Life:
  • Robotics Club
  • Girls Who Code SJHA Chapter
  • Science Club
Girls Who Code: Closing the Gender Gap
By: Ewa Pekala for The Summit (student newspaper) May 2022 Issue
"Society has been trying to change the gender gap in technology as well as introduce women to the field of technology. This is the exact purpose of Girls Who Code. Members of the club enjoy many different activities. This includes simple online coding tutorials, building community through interactive activities, and learning about inspiring role models in the technology industry.The ultimate goal is for the girls to enter into hack-a-thons and/or the Congressional App Challenge. This competition allows middle and high school students from different districts to compete in an annual application contest for software development. These goals don't sound like anything that Hilltoppers can't accomplish."
During the 2023-2024 school year, participants in our Law Institute will include students across all grade levels who participate in the Mock Trial program, as well as seniors enrolled in our College Law class. There will also be opportunities for the larger student body to participate in a variety of interactive experiences, including a Speaker Series, professional presentations and lectures in the field of Law, Justice and Advocacy, as well as visits to federal, state and local courthouses. Prominent Hill alumnae will provide their time, talents and financial support to help launch, enrich and sustain the Institute.
St. Joseph Hill Academy High School, in partnership with Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell Health, established HELM, Hill's Educational Leadership in Medicine Institute, in Fall 2021. Seeking to be at the helm of healthcare education, preparation and partnership, this Career Institute for Women in Healthcare provides an opportunity for SJHA students 16 years and older to explore the world of healthcare in real time by becoming immersed in the day-to-day activities of healthcare professionals. 
HELM consists of juniors and seniors who are interested in exploring careers in healthcare, including Physician, Physician's Assistant (PA), Nurse, Occupational Therapist (OT), Physical Therapist (PT), Speech Therapist, or Hospital Administrator. The Institute will consist of a didactic and a clinical component. Among the learning experiences planned are career panels and an executive lecture series that will take place both at St. Joseph Hill Academy and SIUH. In addition, HELM will include opportunities to tour SIUH and its facilities. HELM students will have an opportunity to earn certificates in certain areas such as CPR. Students can earn participation credits for volunteering at SIUH and attending career panels, lecture series, and other learning opportunities. The credits will earn students the opportunity to become more involved in different aspects within the hospital, such as shadowing medical and administrative professionals.
HELM also includes opportunities for volunteering in areas of interest as well as observing and shadowing staff members.  SJHA and SIUH/Northwell, collaborates on a comprehensive syllabus for the program.
Ms. Jennifer Pla, SJHA Chairperson of the Science Department, serves as the HELM Coordinator. Ms. Pla notes, "Just as laboratories for science classes allow students to put theory into practice, the HELM Institute will give Hilltoppers the opportunity to explore the rapidly changing health care system. It will allow them to develop an understanding of current healthcare issues and make a well-informed career choice among the many health occupations."
This is a unique and exciting opportunity for Hilltoppers to have up close exposure to an array of career paths in the medical field and access successful healthcare professionals who can serve as mentors and educators to our students.
Unique to high schools on Staten Island, Hill offers two four-day, three-night, off-campus Kairos retreats for juniors and seniors. Kairos retreats are known as “God’s Time,” allowing a special moment for students and team member to focus on relationships with self, others, and God. Kairos retreats are grounded in the Catholic faith but students of all faiths have attended. These retreats are led by senior student leaders and adult leaders including Hill faculty and alumnae. Kairos gives retreatants an opportunity to build community with others and grow in their relationship with God.
At Hill, we believe performing arts are a crucial component of a student's education. Students are able to tap into their creative side and build skills such as confidence, collaboration, perseverance, and dedication. 
  • All students, regardless of their Pathway, are able to take a Performing Arts course taught by Ms. Samantha Hermansen.
  • Humanities Pathway students can take Theatre Arts in Freshman Year and College American Musical Theater in Senior Year.
Student life at Hill is also rich with performing arts-related clubs:
In the Summer of 2022 we held a Performing Arts Audition Workshop led by Ms. Samantha Hermansen to work on their singing and audition etiquette, perform mock auditions, perfect their dancing and performance agility, and have their mock auditions pieced together into a performance day. 
Students have access to our state-of-the-art Performing Arts Studio on the 3rd Floor.

Students can participate in student clubs focused on writing and journalism skills like "The Hilltopper" (Yearbook), “The Peak” (Literary Magazine), and "The Summit Newspaper” (Student Newspaper). They can also participate in an important way of maintaining inclusivity in communication: the American Sign Language Club or by taking our American Sign Language elective course. We also offer opportunities in student life for working on visual arts with the Video Yearbook Club. 

In addition to a robust English Language Arts program (essential to Communication skills), students on the Humanities Pathway may also take a Communication Arts class in Freshman Year.

The Hill TV Studio, in its 6th season, gives Hilltoppers an immersive experience and complete introduction to the world of professional broadcasting. From announcements to entertainment segments, the HILL TV team works hard to bring the news to the student body every morning. HILL TV regularly shares segments on their YouTube Page. here. They also have a Special Opps team that livestreams and films various school events.

St. Joseph Hill Academy is proud to have an extensive sports program for student athletes that has a combination of highly competitive teams, a rigorous practice/workout program, and fun-filled seasons that build values such as teamwork, determination, camaraderie, and perseverance. As Koalas, we pride ourselves in striving for victory with integrity and honor. We have a gymnasium full of banners that prove how successful our teams have been in the past, and it is a reminder of what our athletes currently work towards.
We are a member of the Girls’ Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) and represent our school with pride both on and off the field. Many of our athletes have gone on to represent their colleges in NCAA competition in all divisions. I hope you will consider being a part of one of our teams here and fully embrace our Koala Pride. If not, I certainly hope to see you on our sidelines, in our stands, or watching a live stream event to support and cheer on our athletes.
Whether in the pool, on the court, or on the field, Hill athletes gain confidence, leadership and self-respect. Students learn to set goals and manage their time while developing physically, intellectually and socially. Through athletics girls form bonds and friendships over grade levels. Athletes realize that each has a valuable role to fulfill for the good of the team.
A number of students are admitted to the Honors Program based on their high school applications. 

Honors students take Honors English, Honors Biology and Honors Global History. All other subjects (Honors Latin, World Language, Religion, and Physical Education) are mixed classes so all students get a chance to make a variety of friends.  If a student does well in English or Honors English during freshman year, she may be recommended for Honors English in sophomore year.

All Hill students will be taking one or more Honors courses in freshman and sophomore year. We also individually program our students every year, so you are not in all classes with the same students for four years.  After freshman year, some students are recommended by teachers to take additional Honors classes or A.P. courses because they did very well in their freshman classes.
Most Hill students (not only those in the Honors program during freshman year) are able to take many different college courses through our St. John’s University College Advantage Program (17 total courses) in junior and senior year, and our Project Lead the Way science courses (4 total). These credits may be transferred to colleges –saving from a semester to a year and a half, in college tuition.